RUSSELLVILLE, AR – On Tuesday, following a vote of the Great American Conference’s head football coaches, the league announced its All-Conference teams and year-end individual awards. Henderson State’s Kevin Rodgers won his third Offensive Player of the Year award; Southwestern Oklahoma State’s Devin Benton earned the Defensive Player of the Year; Harding’s Zach Shelley picked up Freshman of the Year and Ouachita Baptist’s Todd Knight received his second GAC Coach of the Year accolade.
Rodgers capped his career as the Reddie signal caller by finishing the regular season ranked fourth in Division II with 3,602 passing yards and second with 34 touchdowns. He ends ranked third in Division II history with 124 passing touchdowns and fifth with 13,365 passing yards. Benton, who added the Defensive Player of the Year honor to the Freshman of the Year award he won in 2011, ranked in top five in Division II in tackles for loss and tackles for loss per game. He recorded nine games with multiple tackles for loss and he became the first player in GAC history to earn All-GAC honors in four consecutive seasons.
Shelley became the second-straight running back to claim the Freshman of the Year award. He helped Harding produce the nation’s second-most prolific rushing attack by gaining 408 yards on only 41 carries. He tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns. Coach Knight, who also won the GAC Coach of the Year award in 2011, guided the Tigers to the program’s first undefeated regular season and first Division II postseason berth.
In addition to Rodgers, the First-Team offense featured his two top receiving targets – Darius Davis and Joseph Snapp. Davis, a unanimous selection at wide receiver, caught 56 passes for 1,261 yards and 18 touchdowns. He ranked in the top four in the NCAA in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Snapp caught 51 passes and scored six touchdowns. Southern Arkansas’ Zikerious Ware joined the pair of Reddies as First-Team wide receivers. Ware ranked second with 832 receiving yards and third with 1,368 all-purpose yards. Ware’s teammate, Paul Walker-Hall earned the First-Team spot at tight end. He caught 10 passes and helped block on an offensive line that produced the conference’s top offense. Harding’s all-purpose talent, Donatella Luckett, earned All-GAC honors for the third straight season. He caught 19 passes for 401 yards and he scored a total of five touchdowns, including the game winner at Henderson State.
Ouachita Baptist’s Steven Kehner, East Central’s Jo Jo Snell and Harding Romo Westbrook made up the First Team running backs and fullbacks. Kehner led the GAC with 1,080 rushing yards and a GAC-record 16 rushing touchdowns. Westbrook also topped the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. Snell set the GAC record for all-purpose yards per game, 157.2. He ranked fourth in the conference with 764 yards and gained 7.3 yards per carry.
Three members of the GAC champion Ouachita Baptist Tiger offensive line – center Aaron Sprinkle, left guard Brent Calhoun and left tackle Mike Russell – earned First-Team All-GAC honors. Sprinkle became a three-time All-GAC selection. East Central’sTravis Hening earned All-GAC honors for the second consecutive year and Harding’s Tory Day became the fourth Bison lineman in as many years to make the All-GAC First Team.
Benton led four seniors on the First-Team All-GAC defensive line. East Central’s Daniel Holland set the GAC single-season sacks record with 12.0 sacks. Henderson State’s Glennon Bobo became a three-time All-GAC selection as he ranked third in the GAC with 14.5 tackles for loss. Harding’s Romas Roberson forced three fumbles and added 4.5 tackles for loss for a Harding team that ranked in the top five in the country in scoring defense and total defense.
Two Arkansas Tech linebackers – Logan Genz and Wes McKinney – earned First-Team honors. Genz set the GAC record with 141 tackles, his third-straight season with at least 100 tackles. McKinney added 104 tackles. Genz placed fourth with 13.0 tackles for loss and McKinney added 10.5 tackles for loss. Henderson State’s Josh Davis and Harding’s Dennis Buckner rounded out the linebacker crew. Davis made 90 tackles with 5.0 sacks and Buckner tied for the team lead with three interceptions.
The First-Team All-GAC secondary consisted of Arkansas-Monticello’s Mike Early, Harding’s Darious Lane, Arkansas Tech’s Shai Kobayashi and Ouachita Baptist’s Zach Mitchell. Mitchell led the conference with six interceptions and Kobayashi totaled 10 passes defended and 80 tackles. Early and Lane also earned All-Conference honors on special teams. Early ranked second in the GAC with four interceptions and third with 12 passes defended. He led the GAC in kickoff return average and he returned two kicks for touchdowns. Lane intercepted two passes and recovered three fumbles. As the First-Team special teams player, he averaged 24.0 yards on seven punt returns and he blocked a pair of kicks.
In addition to Lane, Ouachita Baptist’s Etauj Allen, Southeastern Oklahoma State’s Jared Heim and Henderson State’s Houston Ray made up the First-Team Special Teams positions. Allen, a two-time First-Team return specialist, leads the country with three punt return touchdowns and ranks second in punt return yardage. Heim set the GAC record with an 88-yard punt against Southern Nazarene. The two-time First-Team punter led the conference and ranked eighth in Division II in punting average at 42.6 yards per kick. Ray set the GAC scoring record for kickers with 106 points. He converted 17-of-24 field goal attempts.
In total, Ouachita Baptist led the way 18 All-Conference selections, followed by 14 from Harding and 11 from East Central and Southern Arkansas.